“Deepening relationships” and “Social distancing”

These past few days have been characterized by a couple different phrases potentially, but not necessarily, at odds with each other.   

On Saturday the CMC Leadership Team met for our annual visioning retreat (once you do it a second year it becomes annual, right?).  After some reflection on the past year and pondering future possibilities, we found ourselves wordsmithing a vision for ministry for the coming year that turned out like this:

“We will cultivate beloved community by deepening relationships within and beyond our congregation.”

Much of the impetus for this came out of comments we have heard in our Open Questions discussions around church growth.  As the congregation grows wider with more participants, it’s important that we also grow deeper in our faith journeys and relationships with one another.  For the next year+ we’ll have a congregational focus on cultivating beloved community (more about that phrase later) and deepening relationships.

The coronavirus was not a major part of that conversation, but the phrase of the week related to that seems to be “social distancing.”  In order to stop the spread of the virus and protect persons most vulnerable to it, we are all going to need to practice social distancing to varying degrees.  Ohio State, Bluffton, and other universities are canceling in person classes, events involving large gatherings of people coming from different areas are being canceled, and nursing homes are implementing cautious visitation policies. 

Caring for one another during this time will have an inverted quality to it.  Many of the ways we typically express care are through social closeness – a visit, a hug, moving toward one another.  For a while we’ll have to get used to social distancing as a form of care. 

It’s hard to deepen relationships during social distancing.  But that will be the challenge of this moment.  Social bonds, networks of care, friendships, spiritual groundedness amidst anxiety are pretty important right now. Checking in with neighbors, making phone calls to those who need or choose to be mostly homebound, giving and sharing childcare if schools are canceled and parents have to work to maintain needed income, pooling resources, seeking the common good…

I encourage each of us to consider how we can deepen relationships amidst social distance.  To put it another way, to move toward others even if not in body.

Before Sunday we’ll send out a communication for some ways we’ll be changing some practices as a CMC community to respond to this rapidly changing situation.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and each other.